NYC Soda Wars: Big Gulp, Little Protest (Updated)

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Some media couldn’t wait to jump all over the almost non-existent attendance this week at the “Million Gulp March” near City Hall in New York against Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed soda ban.

Organized by a gaggle of libertarians, Ron Paul supporters and ad hoc protesters, the protest at New York’s City Hall on Monday drew only about 50 people, according to local reports, while organizers had predicted attendance of about 500 — never mind the “million” moniker in its name.

“Before, the government was instituted to protect the rights of everyone and prevent crime, and now it’s cracking down the rights of everyone,” Zach Huff, a spokesman for Ron Paul 2012 organizer NYC Liberty HQ, told CBS News. “It’s astonishing we have a mayor who is pro-choice when it comes to what a woman can do with her body but isn’t pro-choice with simple choices, like soda-container sizes.”

Bloomberg retorted, “If you want to kill yourself, I guess you have the right to do it. We’re trying to do something about it.”[more]

The move came as 7-Eleven this week — not a brand to lose a low-hanging promotional opportunity — gave away free 7.11-ounce Slurpees across the US to celebrate the chain’s 85th birthday. While that size was less than one-half of the 16oz Slurpee that would violate Bloomberg’s ban, the context for the giveaway was obvious in the Big Apple, some protesters at the march hoisted 7-Eleven’s Super Big Gulp cups as a symbol of their right to drink big drinks.

Other brands, of course, have come out strongly against the intentions behind Bloomberg’s proposal, such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, part of a US beverage-industry effort (dubbed New Yorkers for Beverage Choices) to persuade New Yorkers to oppose establishment of the ban proposal that remains open for public comment this month.

Update: The original version of this story included the American Beverage Association’s New Yorkers for Beverage Choices as one of the organizers of this protest, but a spokesperson clarified:

The Million Gulp March was organized by an organization called NY Liberty HQ. New Yorkers for Beverage Choices was not involved in the organization of the event. The New Yorkers for Beverage Choices is an organization made up of individuals, businesses, and community organizations who have united to take a stand against the proposed beverage size restriction in New York City. Over 400 businesses and more than 60,000 individuals have joined the organization to date.

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